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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

TIME TRAVELING: Clackamas River Edition

Thousands of years of human exploits ought to be recorded around here, but the roads that native Americans pioneered, or earlier, the 'highways' employed by whoever it was that thought traveling across a cold land-bridge from Russia was a great idea, have either been reclaimed by the ocean or been paved over by opportunistic Europeans.

Prominent in this image is the Fechheimer & White building (approximately 131 years old). The smaller building just to the left is the Hallock-McMillan building, thought to be Portland's oldest existing commercial building (maybe 159 years old).

The oldest buildings in Portland are barely one-hundred and fifty years old

A small architectural accouterment at the North end of reservoir #1 on Mt. Tabor.

There is no Acropolis on Mt. Tabor weathering the millennia - no birthplace of Portlandian democracy - instead, crumbling concrete reservoirs are poised to become ruins at the tender age of one-hundred and twenty-two.


Just half an hour from the boundaries of our modern city, the landscape quickly becomes indistinguishable from what we imagine primordial forests might look like, if primordial forests had patchworks of clear-cuts. I guess it isn't surprising that in watersheds where clouds simply sink into the creased landscape, keeping the shadow-lands perpetually wet, painted messages (if any) run off rock, their colors dispersing in rivulets of rain and condensation, human memories transmogrified into mineral supplements for moss and mushrooms.


Red oxides accent evidence of human encroachment otherwise obscured by creeping vines and mosses. 

02.  Memaloose Road Bridge

So it is intriguing to read of abandoned water works on a tributary of the Clackamas river. To give credit where credit is due, I first read about the South Fork Clackamas/Memaloose Falls hike in a post by Shane Kucera at 

There was enough information to get me to the trailhead...

...though the effects of a forest fire have resulted in the closure of the road that leads to it, which adds a little over a mile of uphill-walking to the mileage tally.


The first time I went, I found the ropes left behind by previous benevolent trailblazers, but when I took Sgt. Rock, we overshot and ended up straying too far South.


The terrain is steep and the brush thick.


But watching Sgt. Rock bound up steep hills, 

...much like a deer,


...helped me appreciate his value as a forward scout.


We found more information about the hike from a post at by Brian Edwards. When there was another break in the weather, we found the ropes leading into the canyon. From there, following the trail is pretty straightforward.


This tunnel is in close proximity to Memaloose falls.



Past the tunnel, I went off trail and descended down to the base of the falls. Meanwhile, Sgt. Rock previewed the rest of the trail.


Sgt. Rock was able to confirm that the trail was passable all the way to the Clackamas River.


So the next time the rain let up, we assaulted the trail by river, thus cutting out the mile long climb to the trailhead (thanks once again to the luv2kayak evangelical outreach).


An incongruous fire hydrant.


Tunnels along the way.


Lower falls on the South Clackamas fork. Note the pipeline just to the right of the falls.


Valves and wheels along what looks like a stone retaining wall mark (perhaps) where pipelines from Memaloose Creek and the South Fork Clackamas converge.


The Memaloose Creek pipeline crosses just below the convergence of Memaloose Creek and the South Clackamas Fork. A short distance up the trail are the remains of what some have called a settling pool. Watch that last step off the bridge headed East.


This is the end of the long tunnel that leads to the top of the big falls where the diversion dam is located. The last tunnel is long and the floor is dominated by a deteriorating elevated wooden walkway featuring plenty of pointy things that could easily enter your skull cavity through your eye-socket if you should happen to trip in the dark. I recommend a reliable artificial light source.





Headed back down to the high bridge.


Notes about the bridge:
If it's wet, it's very, very slippery.
At the end of February, it was rated at a load capacity of 280 way.


The detour around the high bridge is short, and in comparison, relaxing.



Constrained by time, we commandeer giraffes to cover more of the harsh terrain before the sun sets. For provisions, we carry plenty of 3 species tacos.


Possible bigfoot sighting. 

Approximate positions of numbered photos
Brown dots = trip A
Yellow dots = trip B
Red dots = trip C 


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for letting me hike the Pacific Northwest vicariously!

  2. As always Scott, your photographs are works of art. :)

  3. Hi, thank you for doing this post. I've done this hike before and was looking forward to taking some friends out there and you've confirmed that Memaloose Rd is still closes as the Clackamas Ranger District states. Was it easy for you to park your car there where the bridge is closed and would you say it's safe from being ticketed there as well?

  4. I visited the trail while it was wet and rainy. There were seldom other cars, but I expect that situation will change. You'll probably want to get there early. There is room for approximately 3 cars, maybe 4...beyond that, it will get a little creative. I asked some rangers if it was safe to park there and they said as long as you didn't block the bridge, it would probably be fine. Rangers aren't exactly police though. The uncomfortable thing for me is that a car parked by the side of the road is vulnerable to the window busting car contents thief. Make sure you don't have any valuables in the car and if anybody drives by while you're getting out of your car, pretend like you're a fisherman planning on spending time right there under the bridge. Not too far West of the bridge is an off road space for parking that also grants access to the river. There is considerably more space there, but obviously adds to the length of your hike. I've parked there 4 times over the last two months and did not receive any tickets or broken windows. Once we left the car unlocked (on purpose, because windows are expensive), and nobody even got in and pooped on the seats.

    1. THANK YOU for the swift reply Scott! We plan to go quite early to get a spot. Thanks so much!


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